For the first time since the public emergency officially ended in May, health officials statewide are reporting an increase in positive COVID tests and the amount of the virus detected in wastewater. 

The Island is also seeing a rise in positive cases, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital representatives announced during a press briefing Tuesday.

Hospital President Denise Schepici said the recent uptick of patients testing positive for the latest COVID variant, EG.5, or Eris, is “relatively low,” compared with previous waves of the virus. 

Generally, the symptoms of the Eris variant are “remaining mild compared with other variants of the disease”; this is likely due to widespread vaccination and people who have already been exposed to and infected with COVID, Schepici said. 

Still, a new vaccine for the Eris COVID variant is expected to be available on-Island in the fall. 

Last month, the hospital’s emergency department treated 33 people who tested positive for COVID. 

Out of the 43 people who tested positive for COVID this month on the Island, three required hospitalization. While two of those patients are listed as being in “fair condition,” one is currently being treated in the ICU, and considered to be in serious condition, MVH Chief Nurse Claire Senguin said. 

In the past seven days, 26 positive COVID cases have been recorded out of 131 hospital patients who’d been tested for the virus.

As a result, many of the hospital’s emergency department staff are opting to wear masks to protect themselves and their patients, Senguin said. While not mandated, patients are advised to also wear masks while in the emergency department. 

In its efforts to avoid spreading the virus, the hospital will be implementing some crowd-control measures, such as asking visitors to wait outside if the emergency department is full. 

MVH also asks that those who know they have the virus not seek treatment for COVID at the hospital unless they are experiencing serious symptoms, like high fever or difficulty breathing. 

“We strongly urge anyone who tests positive to quarantine at home, and use the emergency room only if symptoms require immediate care,” Seguin said. 

The reports come as the Island hits its height of summer activity and increased population. With some of the largest-capacity events slated for this month, MVH reps urge people to “use good discretion” to avoid possible infection. 

Though the Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have not changed hospital protocol due to the uptick, which is occurring nationwide, MVH officials suggest wearing a mask when in public, and maintaining good hygiene practices.

Following a national shortage of Paxlovid — the approved antiviral medication and standard treatment for COVID — which is supplied by the state and federal governments, hospital staff say that a recent shipment of the drug has helped to restock Island pharmacies.

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